Posts Tagged ‘Science’

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine with Nathan Myhrvold


It’s not a surprise that techies and geeks love our food, and the science behind food, the how and why and what if of cooking.

It is a bit of a surprise to find someone who has a gift for cooking and photography with a master’s degree in economics, as well as master’s degrees in geophysics and space physics and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UCLA. Oh, and not only did he do post-doctoral work with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University researching cosmology, quantum field theory in curved space-time, and quantum theories of gravitation, he served as the chief technology officer for Bill Gates at Microsoft. (This guy’s the geek of geeks).

Meet Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan retired from Microsoft in 1999 to found Intellectual Ventures and pursue several lifelong interests in photography, cooking, and food science. Later he founded The Cooking Lab and published a mammoth 5 volume 2,438 page set of photos and recipes and thoughts on the science of cooking called “Modernist Cuisine” that will knock your socks off. In it you’ll find stunning photography and scientific explanations of the cooking process, techniques and methods to achieve Modernist Cuisine.

But that’s not exactly what this post is about. This is about the show up right now at The Tech Museum of Innovation called The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. This morning I was lucky enough to join Tim Ritchie, president of The Tech Museum of Innovation and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen (an avid foodie herself) and Nathan Myhrvold who spoke about his work and that passion for understanding food in ways we don’t normally see it.

The exhibit is over 75 large scale images that show us microscopic views of crystals of citric acid and what he calls “exploded parts diagrams” of a mushroom and swiss hamburger that took over 30 hours to prepare and takes after a drawing style popular in technical manuals and also favored by Leonardo Da Vinci.

As you go through the exhibit take time to read the descriptions which share the science but also the methods he use to achieve the shots. What appears to be a simple image on a steak is actually a composed panorama of 1,000 images stitched together to make every single millimeter sharp and clear. Another dish which seems to leap off the wall is uses a technique called “Focus stacking” where software is used to create highly dimensional photos with virtually no depth of field so every element is sharply defined and crisp.

All of the photos in this exhibit give you a new way to look at food. Whether familiar objects like a planted garden or cutaways of common household appliances, constructed images or micro views you’d never see on your own. It’s food porn at it’s finest.

This exhibit is open at The Tech from June 25 to Sept 1 and there are two special “After Hours” events planned. After Hours is the monthly evening event where adults 21 and older enjoy science, technology, entertainment, and cocktails together with their friends, and this summer there will be some special menus and themes designed to coincide with the new exhibit.

Get your tickets here:
July After Hours – Independence Day – Spirit of America
Thursday, July 3, 2014
7 p.m. – midnight

$10 / $5 for members
Buy tickets
August After Hours – Hawaiian Night Luau
Thursday, August 7, 2014
7 p.m. – midnight

$10 / $5 for members
Buy tickets

By the way, look for Modernist Cuisine recipes and videos on the website, you can get an interactive eBook in the Modernist Cuisine at Home App from the iTunes store for free in the Lite Version or buy the full version and learn about the techniques and methods of Modernist Cuisine demonstrated. Learn how to cook salmon sous vide in your kitchen sink!

SECRET ORDER is worthy of research at the SJ Rep

James Wagner and Robert Krakovski. Photo: Kevin Berne

Thursday evening I saw Secret Order at the San Jose Repertory.  My guest and I were really interested to see just exactly how a “biomedical thriller” would play out on stage.  After finding out that playwright Bob Clyman is also a clinical psychologist, we’ve been looking forward to this show for a few months now.

When Dr. Shumway, a relatively obscure and naïve cancer researcher, is thrust into the high-stakes world of science, the notion of noble “truth-seeking” is dissected with a scalpel’s precision.  Shumway is in over his head when he and a young student researcher get swept up in the dangerous world of political maneuvering, corporate loyalty and scientific ethics…

I am not sure I would really use the word “thriller” or even “dangerous” to describe this show, but it definitely delves into the politics of scientific research and fundraising, and the moral implications that follow when research depends on funding, and funding requires results.  The play shows that the relationship between funding and research is a symbiotic one, yet also quite dysfunctional when the elements of time and results are thrown in.

There are no real “bad guys” in this play, just characters who make wrong choices, sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes with questionable motives.  “Altruism vs. Capitalism,” state the dramaturgy notes in the program, but this does not mean that Capitalism is the bad guy either – these days the altruism of research does not exist without capitalism.  And this is what makes for a great morality tale.

Kathryn Tkel, James Wagner and Robert Krakovski. Photo: Kevin Berne

There are a few depressing points made in this show, one being that an actual cure for cancer is considered somewhat of a fairytale by “Old Science”.  Old Science vs. New Science is another theme of the show, and in this play Old Science wins that argument.  Old Science also wins the entire game in the end, and if we go back to Altruism vs. Capitalism, Altruism also comes out the loser.

When the play ends there is a feeling of helplessness.  The show makes clear the vicious circle of research needing funding needing results, and no results equals no funding equals no research.  And Time is the enemy of all.

The play is excellently acted, with my favorite being Julian López-Morillas as Saul Roth.  I last saw López-Morillas in the Spring production of Sonia Flew; he left quite an impression on me and is fantastic in this somewhat understated role as well.  But is Saul Roth a villain? Or just the voice of Reality?  Watch and you can decide for yourself.

James Wagner as William Shumway. Photo: Kevin Berne

The real star of this show (for me) is the set design and background projections.  Varying between art deco, 60s modern and ultra scientific, the constantly changing projections did a great job of quickly changing scenes from a scientific lab, to an office with a view, to an auditorium, and finally to a beautiful outdoor park.  Techno music sometimes accompanied the moving projections and your attention was always captured, wondering what formation of color blocks and pictures would show up next.  The complicated multi-level stage set up was also quite beautiful, and sitting near the front I wondered what kind of experience the audience in the balcony was having – I would bet their view of the entire set was even more amazing than mine.  The set sponsor was Billy Berk’s, and I’m going to make a point of eating dinner there soon to thank them for their generosity in making this possible.

(l to r) Robert Krakovski, James Wagner and Julian Lopez-Morillas. Photo: Kevin Berne

But there is another reason to see this show.  The San Jose Repertory is working with the Valley Medical Center Foundation to help provide free breast health screenings for underserved women at the Sobrato Cancer Center.  A portion of the proceeds from the October 14th performance were given to the foundation, and after every performance the actors accept donations at the doors to support this cause.  So bring some cash or your checkbook with you to help support this worthy cause.  Also, patrons who visit the Box Office wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness will save $6 off the regular ticket price (one discount per person) to any Tuesday – Thursday evening performance.

Secret Order
October 14 – November 7, 2010

by Robert Clyman
directed by Chris Smith

San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio
Phone 408.367.7255
Tickets Online

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

The September (Autumnal) Equinox occurred this morning at 8:44am, the time when the sun crosses the equator.

Equinox derives from the Latin words meaning “equal night” is either of the two times during the year that the sun crosses the celestial equator and appears directly above the equator that divides the earth into the northern and southern hemispheres. When this occurs, the length of the day and the night are approximately equal at every place on earth. Day and night during the September equinox is not exactly equal length. There is anywhere from six to more than ten minutes additional daylight. The sun appears south of the equator in the time between the September equinox and the March equinox.

At an equinox, neither Earth’s north pole nor its south pole is tilting away from or toward the sun. Both poles are more or less evenly illuminated. The September equinox marks the beginning of northern hemisphere autumn and southern hemisphere spring.

At least we usually have agreeable weather through October. A rainy winter would be nice to help do away with those drought concerns. Then, back to spring and summer!

Sally Ride Science Festival 2008

Sally Ride Science Festival is where girls, parents, and teachers attend workshops, meet scientists, and have fun at the street fair.

The Science Festival is designed for 5th to 8th grade girls. Parents and teachers are welcome. Please read the FAQ here.

The festival features workshops for students given by local scientists and engineers including chemists, veterinarians, microbiologists, and others; there will be workshops for parents and teachers on ways to support students’ interests in science and math; also, a street fair with booths, hands-on activities, food, and music. There will also be a talk by astronaut Wendy Lawrence.

Wendy Lawrence is a veteran of 4 space shuttle missions and was an astronaut for 14 years. Her space missions included a shuttle flight that carried a set of telescopes to study the stars, 2 space shuttle trips to rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir, and most recently the space shuttle’s return to space after the Columbia accident. She is also an Ocean Engineer.

Sally Ride is the first American woman to fly in space. She was aboard the space shuttle Challenger that launched from Kennedy Space Center, on June 18, 1983. NASA selected Sally Ride as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. While in training, she worked on development of the shuttle’s robot arm, and worked in mission control as a capsule communicator. Long an advocate for improved science education, Sally Ride has written six science books for children. She also initiated and directed education projects designed to fuel middle school students fascination with science.

Advance registration is required and is $20 (includes the featured talk, workshops, lunch, and the Street Fair).

Sally Ride Science Festival information and registration

Sally Ride Science Festival
NASA Ames Research Center

Saturday, September 27
11:00 am – 1:00 pm Check-in, Lunch, Street Fair
1:00 pm – 4:15 pm Featured Talk, Workshops, Street Fair

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